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PROBIOTICS – What's up with Healthy Bacteria?

May 07, 2013

You’ve probably heard by now about healthy bacteria that live in our bodies… but what do they do, and why are they so important? Probiotics are beneficial bacteria normally present in the digestive tract.  They are vital for proper digestion and perform a number of useful functions, such as preventing the overgrowth of yeast and other harmful microbes, supporting the innate and adaptive immune system, maintaining healthy skin, assimilation and absorption of vital nutrients, and synthesizing vitamin K. 


That’s why a growing body of scientific evidence suggests probiotics can be used therapeutically to treat and prevent illness.  One of the ways they act is through the GALT, or gut associated lymphoid tissue.  GALT is a fancy name for the immune system in our digestive tract.  Probiotics help modulate that immune system, supporting our ability to fight off infection, decrease reactions to allergies, and heal gut inflammation.



What goes wrong?

Many things can disrupt this natural balance of microflora, such as stress, antibiotics, medications (common examples are birth control pills and NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen), infections, inflammation and poor sleep. 


Which ones should I buy?

The most common probiotics in supplements are acidophilus and bifidobacteria.  Saccharomyses boulardii are yeast that can help to reduce pathogenic bacteria and strengthen the immune response.  Since they are not bacteria, they are not killed off by antibiotics, so are often used in conjunction with antibiotic treatment to reduce adverse effects.

One of the downsides of probiotic supplements is consumers are often not getting what the label promises.  A 1999 study found that of over 50 probiotic supplements tested, most contained fewer live organisms than the label reported.  The highest quality probiotics are usually sold through a Naturopathic Physician; they contain higher amounts of bacteria, and the most researched strains of beneficial bacteria.


Are there food sources?

Cultured or fermented foods also contain various types and amounts of beneficial bacteria.  These foods incude: yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, umeboshi, and home-fermented veggies.  It is a great idea to make your own fermented foods, otherwise you are ingesting food-grade bacteria in packaged products.  As well, it is cheaper, and a great way to use excess produce.  For an easy-to-follow video on how to ferment your own veggies without whey at home, go to:


Island Optimal Health & Performance is currently running a special on HMF Forte probiotics – a professional-grade line of human-sourced microflora… ask at reception for pricing.


Dr. Clare Craig, ND, CD(DONA)
Naturopathic Doctor, Doula
Island Optimal Health & Performance
Island Optimal Health & Performance
#103-1808 Bowen Road
Nanaimo, BC   V9S 5W4




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